Wednesday, September 3, 2014

High School Vocabulary: DIY Curriculum






My junior and senior year English teacher, Mrs. Lane, believed in learning new words.  Both years, the students in her class received 15 new words to learn each week.  Every third week we had a 3 week vocabulary test in the form of a crossword puzzle.

I don't know where she got her vocabulary lists.  Perhaps from the required literature reading, but I do know she used the same lists year after year. 

 If you were lucky enough to have older siblings who had been in her class, you could usually 'inherit' their vocabulary notebooks, complete with definitions.  This saved me a lot of time looking up the words; I could jump right in to studying the words.

Like Mrs. Lane, I believe in learning new words and having my students learn new words.  I have used packaged vocabulary curriculum that focuses on root words, like Vocabulary from Classical Roots, but this year I wanted words that my students encounter in their reading.

A do it yourself vocabulary curriculum is really quite easy to accomplish.  You can do it one of two ways, or a combination of the two. 


 CHOOSING WORDS
1.  As your student reads their literature assignment (and other subjects), they should write down in a notebook any word they do not know.  Even if they can vaguely understand the word in the context of the sentence, they should add it to their vocabulary notebook.  

2.  You, the teacher, pre-read assignments and choose words you want your student to add to their vocabulary notebook.  This assures you that the student will have a vocabulary list for the week. 

 WHAT TO DO WITH THE WORDS
1. The student should then look up the definition of the word and write down the word with the definition.

I do not allow my student to copy/paste into a document to print.  The actual writing of the word and the definition helps the student remember the word and definition better.

2. The student can also find the origin of the word and any root words that will help them understand similar words.

3.  The student can incorporate new words into their writing assignments or use them in sentences.  I prefer to have them use them in their required writing.

Sometimes I use option one, sometimes, I use option two; basically I combine the options.  For example, last week, I read my student's history assignment and pulled out vocabulary words for them.  Even though they may not encounter many of these words in their every day life, they need to understand them for the place and time they are studying.   Here are the words I found:

Vocabulary: convivial, interregnum, impecunious, sybarite, ascetic, sobriquet, primogeniture, adumbrate, panoply, ignominy, polemic, xenophobic, rapprochement

If your student claims they have not found any unfamiliar words in their reading, you need to up the game and choose books at a higher reading level for them.  High school students should be reading books that challenge them in their vocabulary and their thinking.

Don't neglect vocabulary study in the high school years.



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